DEARBORN - It's uncertain whether anyone has won an election solely based off of receiving an endorsement from the Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC), but the group certainly has had a history of influence in local elections during the last 14 years of its existence.
It is a fact, however, that AAPAC has launched several local campaigns in the past where it was alone and running against the power of the establishment and still able to score victories, one of them is the Dearborn School bond a decade ago.
"The endorsement definitely helps," attorney Mariam Bazzi, AAPAC President said. She says AAPAC has even managed to win and defeat ballot proposals.
AAPAC was established in 1998 to get Arab Americans more involved in the political process, and encourage them to run for public office and vote. It's an independent, non-partisan group. Candidates running in local races have sought its endorsements in an effort to gain support from Arab American voters in metro-Detroit, where the highest concentration resides.
Once AAPAC endorses a candidate or ballot proposal, its members will campaign on behalf of the candidate or proposal.
|Attorney Mariam Bazzi|
President of AAPAC
During the 2000 presidential election AAPAC endorsed republican presidential candidate George Bush, then in 2004 endorsed presidential candidate Kerry Edwards. In 2008 AAPAC chose not to endorse any candidate in the presidential election.
It interviews candidates and issues endorsements for people running for local, state and national offices. Currently AAPAC is in the process of conducting its endorsement interviews for the Aug. 7 Michigan primary.
AAPAC will stop interviewing candidates on July 8, and then on July 10 its endorsement committee will submit their recommendations to the general membership, who will vote on which candidates receive endorsements.
During the meeting, only candidates who obtain two-thirds of the vote will be endorsed.
The last day for candidates to submit a request for an endorsement in writing was June 4. Bazzi says providing written documentation of an endorsement request protects the AAPAC from any misunderstandings.
After candidates submitted their requests, AAPAC's endorsement committee began its review process which includes research on the voting records of candidates, review of their positions on issues and public statements. This week AAPAC held a series of interviews for candidates at The Arab American News in Dearborn.
Those interviewed Tuesday included Brian Morrow, Jane Ellen Gillis, Adel Harb, Karen Braxton and Dearborn 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers who are all running for Wayne County Circuit Court. There are currently three judges retiring, leaving three positions on the court available.
|Members of AAPAC endorsement committee, attorneys Zenna Faraj Elhasan and Fadwa Alawieh Hammoud listen to Judicial candidate Adel Harb.during his interview last week. PHOTOS: TAAN|
Other candidates included State Rep. Bob Constan who's running for a seat on the Wayne County Commission, David Knezek, candidate for the 11th House District, Wanda Evans, Cliff Woodards II and Christopher Blount who are all candidates for the 36th District Court.
Dianne Webb, candidate for the Wayne County Commission, Dana Margaret Hathaway, 3rd Circuit Judge candidate, Rose Mary Robinson, candidate for the 4th House District, Candyce Ewing Abbott and Sam Salamey, candidates for Dearborn's 19th District Court Judge are all expected to be interviewed on June 26.
Candidates were asked questions ranging from what distinguished them from their opponents to their stances on issues, accomplishments, relationship with the Arab American community and their platforms. Bazzi says the types of questions candidates are asked depends on the race they're running in.
"If it's a candidate who's running for a position as a school board member, we'll ask questions that are important to the student body as a whole, not just Arab Americans," Bazzi said.
She says a candidate running in a judicial race could be asked about how they would deal with some of the language barriers Arab Americans face.
"We hope they're willing to work with and understand them," Bazzi said. AAPAC members are giving back to the Arab American community by volunteering their time to the group.
"This is a service to our community," Bazzi said.
Its members receive no financial compensation, and actually pay membership fees. "Everyone has jobs and families," Bazzi said. Despite the time and effort, its members know their work is important to the community.
They're constantly monitoring the positions candidates take on issues in an effort to ensure endorsements are granted to those whose decisions address the concerns of Arab Americans.
"It' very difficult for the average person to keep track of all the different types of races. We eliminate that process for the community. We make sure the right people are being endorsed," Bazzi said.
AAPAC Endorsement Chairwoman, Tina Farhat made note of the commitment today's Arab American youth show towards serving their community through AAPAC. She says young Arab Americans are heavily involved in the political process more than previous generations. AAPAC meetings are open to the public, but only members can vote. For questions regarding AAPAC email firstname.lastname@example.org.